Back to school – yearly eye exam

Photo courtesy of Patrick on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Patrick on Flickr

Backpack, pencils, paper, binders, new clothes … an eye exam? When you think about getting ready to start a new school year, I’m sure that an eye exam is not on most people’s back to school list, though it should be. It is estimated that 80 percent of all learning is done with our eyes. In today’s modern classroom, students use their eyes constantly to read from a board, view projected digital images, use computers and tablets, read and to participate in sports and other classroom activities. So give your children the tools they need to succeed in school by having annual eye exams with a doctor of optometry.

According to the American Optometric Association, your child needs much more than just good vision in order to “see” properly. Every child needs to have the following vision skills for effective reading and learning:

  • Visual acuity: the ability to see clearly at the distance for viewing the chalkboard, at an intermediate distance for the computer and up close for reading a book.
  • Eye Focusing: the ability to quickly and accurately maintain clear vision as the distance from objects change, such as when looking from the chalkboard to a paper on the desk and back. Eye focusing allows the child to easily maintain clear vision over time like when reading a book or writing a report.
  • Eye tracking: the ability to keep the eyes on target when looking from one object to another, moving the eyes along a printed page or following a moving object like a thrown ball.
  • Eye teaming: the ability to coordinate and use both eyes together when moving the eyes along a printed page, and to be able to judge distances and see depth for class work and sports.
  • Eye-hand coordination: the ability to use visual information to monitor and direct the hands when drawing a picture or trying to hit a ball.
  • Visual perception: the ability to organize images on a printed page into letters, words and ideas and to understand and remember what is read.

Why school screenings don’t cut it

Unfortunately, while children do receive vision screenings from their pediatrician or at school, most do not have a comprehensive eye exam. In published guidelines for vision screenings, the American Academy of Pediatricians recommends a vision screening to include:

Visual acuity by Snellen method (reading letters at a distance)

  • External (penlight) examination for surface abnormalities of the eye and surrounding tissues
  • Pupillary examination
  • Ocular motility and alignment (ocular movements, cover test and corneal reflections)
  • Ophthalmoscopy for red reflexes and examination of retina and optic nerve

As you can see, vision screenings do not examine needed visual skills. Even if a child passes a vision screening and can see 20/20, he or she can still have vision problems. Luckily, every child in the United States has the ability to receive a comprehensive eye exam. To emphasize the importance of vision care, the Affordable Care Act has required every health plan to provide pediatric eye exams as an essential benefit. In addition, the volunteer doctors of optometry of the InfantSee program provide a comprehensive infant eye assessment between 6 and 12 months of age as a no-cost public service. Give your child the tools to succeed in school. Have an annual comprehensive eye exam.

For more information: California Optometric Association at, American Optometric Association at and


~ Steven Sage Hider, OD
California Optometric Association

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